David Smith, city worker for Fayetteville/Cumberland County Parks and Recreation has been servicing the streets of Fayetteville for 15 years. With his first day on the job being Valentine’s Day, he had no idea it would be an omen for the love and appreciation he would gain for his hometown, Fayetteville, NC. Smith has volunteered his skills to assist the Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County when they first began the public art installations. He was personally selected by his supervisor to assist with the installations for being the best lift truck driver on the team. Not only did he show up, he showcased his skills proving he was not only the best but formidable. For a man of few words, speaking on his own behalf does not come naturally for he carries humility as well. The people he works with daily suggested him for this article. Take a look at this city worker and his 15 years in a career that feels like more than just a job.
Tree Care Technician
Fayetteville/Cumberland County Parks and Recreation
Tell us a little bit about your job.
I am a Tree Care Technician with Parks and Rec. My main job is to take care of the parks, buildings, and streets. I help to keep the trees from intruding the streets so people can drive safely. I help to remove dead, broken, or fallen limbs from public areas to reduce hazards. I have been doing this job for a long time. I was 15, I saw a beautiful girl getting off the bus. I had to stop for a moment. I thought “I’d like to take her out.” I needed some money first. I started off with dragging limbs. Eventually, I started climbing and I have been doing it ever since. I did take that young lady out. She wound up being my wife. We are still making it last after all these years.
What began your relationship with the Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County?
The director of the Arts Council called over asking for help on the installation. My boss asked me to see what I could do to help out. I went over with my truck to help them. That was about 2 years ago, and I have been doing it ever since.
What makes it more than a job for you?
I enjoy the challenges. I like to get the viewpoints other people don’t get to. I get to watch the city grow.
How has working with the Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County changed your perspective on your community?
It is nice to see people enjoying themselves in the community. I grew up in Fayetteville and remember this place looking much different. I remember when the mall was a corn field. I have a lot of good memories from this city. I can remember, as a child about 5 or 6 years old, I would come downtown to get the best hamburgers in the city on Franklin Street. The downtown area was not tourist friendly. During the day, there was no street traffic or welcoming businesses. At night, the downtown strip clubs came alive. If you were going to downtown Fayetteville at night, it wasn’t for something moral. I love seeing the change in the city. It feels great to see the street artists and the public art being installed. This community is really coming up.
Have you developed an appreciation for art now that you have worked with all types of artists?
Yes. At one time, I thought they just threw some metal together and called it art. Now, I appreciate their designs and wouldn’t mind having a piece in my own yard. The piece that has impressed me the most so far was the Natural Embrace, that Venus fly trap one. I also like that painter out on Hay Street.
I was told you like to hunt when you are not saving the city from fallen trees. Which deer hunt was your most memorable?
Hands down, it would be when my son killed his first deer about ten years ago. My son, Dillon, was only ten years old at the time. I was so proud of him. Now he is a grown man. He called me the day after Thanksgiving to tell me he had just killed the biggest buck he had ever marked. He was so proud to show daddy.
What are some other things you do for the city which are not in your job description?
Well, I spend a lot of my time helping my neighbors during storms. I have been through so many storms while living here, Hugo, Mathew, Florence, that tornado that ran through Raleigh Rd. I was always out there helping with cleanup on my own time. I help clean off their driveways and things like that. On the clock, we are kind of like first responders since we have to clear the roads so the emergency crews can get where they need to go.
What inspires you in your work?
Family. I like to see how my job impacts the community. I had the opportunity to build a fountain in Festival Park. I placed every one of those stones with the leaf truck. I like the challenges and the not knowing what will be in my to-do list next. I had the opportunity to help prepare the land for the new Fayetteville Baseball Stadium. We kept a plaque from the underground spring which sat right where home plate was put. We kept that in our office.
Which art piece was the most challenging to install?
The planes in front of the Arts Council building, Flight. The construction of that piece was such a challenge. It was very heavy and shaped oddly. The location it was placed made parking my truck in the right spot difficult. The balance was off. The piece was great, but a nightmare to install. I never had a doubt it could be done. We did it though.
What is the coolest thing you are working on right now?
Hanging Christmas lights in the park. I will be doing the installation for the next public art piece coming up soon. It looks like popsicles.
Davis Smith showed humility throughout his interview. He truly is a man of few words. It took bringing up what others had said about his performance to get him to open up. Much of what smith does daily is so impressive to onlookers. Helping to facilitate growth in our community through ingenuity and skill is his contribution. He does it with finesse, patience, humility, and a smile. Though his intentions are altruistic, he gains new perspectives and a pride for his community with each public art installation. Thank you David for what you do best.
Would you like to suggest an individual whose work in cultural arts is “More Than a Job”? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.